Commandments of game design: Alex Hutchinson, creative director of Assassin’s Creed III


Today is the turn of Ubisoft Montreal’s Alex Hutchinson, who helmed development of Assassin’s Creed III as creative director, and has previously worked on the likes of Spore and Army Of Two: The 40th Day. As we said at the beginning of this series, we set no stipulations for how many commandments devs should supply – some sent ten, while others focused on a single, important rule. Hutchinson was one such creative.

We published our own ten commandments last month, and you can keep track of all the collected rules by using the Commandments of game design search tag.


Though shalt not invent ridiculous nonsense to fix unintuitive mechanics

If you want your game to be understood quickly and easily, then keep as many of your mechanics and scenarios as relevant and grounded in natural logic as possible. The further you get from a real world metaphor, the more interface you’ll need to design to explain it, the more tutorials you’ll need to build to teach it, and the more effort you’re requiring from your players to understand and immerse themselves in your world. Everything you make up from whole cloth is asking extra effort from your player (and your dev team) and it may not be worth it. Even my mum knows to find the toilet and click on it when her Sim needs to take a bathroom break, while choosing a historical setting, current political issue or pop culture phenomenon as a starting point allows more people to engage with your idea without feeling excluded. And even if you are building fantasy mechanics, you can still use real world logic to help ease your players into it: Most people can intuit that a fire spell would be useful on an ice dragon, while the power of F’Noar will require more explanation. If you do it right, your players will feel included in the logic of your game, instead of immediately excluded.

For comparison, here are our original ten commandments from 2003.

  • Ian Brett Cooper

    Why is this guy still around after the appalling jobs he did on Spore and AC3? I mean, this guy should be looking for a different career, not telling us his philosophy for game design.

    Also, his “advice” is advice even I could give. These are hardly the revelations of a genius.

    This guy should be taking advice, not giving it, and he needs to get out of the business before he screws up even more games.